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IFJ hits out at attempts by Gulf states to ‘force the closure of Al Jazeera’

By Gursimran Hans

Amid tension between other Gulf states and Qatar, the International Federation of Journalists has demanded that journalists are not used as “political footballs”.

Last week, authorities in Saudi Arabia and Jordan closed down Al Jazeera offices in the countries’ respective capitals. The media organisation’s operation licence in Saudi Arabia has also been revoked.

A Saudi-led coalition of Arab countries has demanded Qatar close down the international broadcaster, which is partially funded by the House of Thani, Qatar’s royal family and is based in Doha, the nation’s capital.

The dispute centres around alleged Qatari links to Iran and regional terrorist groups.

Saudi citizens caught watching Al Jazeera can be fined up to the equivalent of just under £2,110. The channel has also been banned in Bahrain.

The anti-Qatar coalition includes Egypt, which closed down Al Jazeera’s Cairo offices in 2013 and seized all equipment owned by it.

Some 55 journalists from other Gulf states currently working in Al Jazeera’s Doha offices having been threatened with the loss of their citizenship if they do not leave.

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Politicians in Israel, outside of the coalition, have also called for Al Jazeera’s offices in the nation to be closed including defence minister Avigdor Lieberman, who accused the media outlet of “Nazi Germany-style” propaganda.

The IFJ, the largest organisation of journalists in the world, say these demands are having “a devastating impact on journalists and their families”.

IFJ general secretary Anthony Bellanger said: “We utterly condemn moves to force the closure of Al Jazeera, throw its journalists out of jobs and undermine the freedom to inform, and the right to free speech and free media.

“Journalists doing their jobs and their families – husbands, wives and children – must not be used as political footballs in this dispute.

“There is now a grave danger their human rights are being violated.

“The IFJ will stand in support of every journalist – whether from Qatar or the states imposing the blockade and sanctions – to help defend their right to work, their job and their fundamental human rights”.

Deputy director of Amnesty International’s Global Issues Programme James Lynch said: “For potentially thousands of people across the Gulf, the effect of the steps imposed in the wake of this political dispute is suffering, heartbreak and fear.

“These drastic measures are already having a brutal effect, splitting children from parents and husbands from wives. People from across the region – not only from Qatar, but also from the states implementing these measures – risk losing jobs and having their education disrupted. All the states involved in this dispute must ensure their actions do not lead to human rights violations. ”

Photo Credit: Frederic J. Brown/ AFP Photo

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